Back in January, on a cold and snowy Saturday morning, I decided to bake some bread for the first time ever. This isn’t just any bread. It’s my mother’s homemade bread.
You have to understand that mom’s bread is legendary. Family feuds have been fought over who got the biggest slice, who did not deliver bread to whom as instructed, and who gets the end pieces. FYI: I get all the end pieces.
One time, mom sent me home with two loaves of bread and instructions to take one to my brother. I took him the bread, minus the end pieces. For some reason, he didn’t think that was funny.
I was nervous about trying to follow in my mother’s bread-baking footsteps. She set the bar pretty high, after all. It was intimidating. Also, the women in my family have a peculiar habit, when they share their recipes, of “forgetting” some necessary ingredient or crucial step. If any of my cousins are reading this, my grandmother’s Swedish meatball sauce is not just cream of mushroom soup, as she claimed. I know the secret ingredient. I’m not telling.
Anyway, I got out all the ingredients for bread, measured everything, and promptly had myself a little panic attack. I had to call mom to make sure I had it right. She assured me I did, and that I was perfectly capable of baking a couple loaves of bread. She said it like it was no big deal. Yeah, right.
As I followed each step, I thought back to the days when I’d sit on the cupboard and watch how mom worked her magic, turning flour and yeast and whatnot into something that warmed my heart and soul.
When I got to the part of the process where I had to knead the dough, I realized something: kneading dough is really, really hard. Mom always made it look so easy.
It made me think about some of the other things my parents did for my brother and me, things that looked so easy when viewed through a child’s eyes, even an adult child. I think that was the first time I genuinely appreciated that my parents had a really tough job, a job they didn’t always do perfectly. I always knew it, but that was the first time I felt it.
So, my first attempt at mom’s homemade bread turned out OK. It didn’t taste like mom’s bread, but it was pretty good for a first attempt, even if it wasn’t perfect.
The thing is, I would really rather the bread baking was still mom’s thing. Last year, when she told me she just couldn’t do it anymore and that I would have to take up that torch, my first reaction was, “But I don’t wanna.”
I think that baking bread was the last thing my mom could do for me that I couldn’t do for myself. I didn’t want that to change. There is something comforting about still needing your mom and knowing she’ll be there for you, no matter how old you are.
Lania Rocha is a staff writer for the Genesee County View. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.